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Legal battle intensifies over Punjab CM office

Petition argues ex-governor did not have jurisdiction to accept resignation because it was addressed to the premier

The legal battle between the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for the office of Punjab chief minister intensified on Wednesday as a new petition was filed in the Lahore High Court (LHC) seeking reinstatement of Sardar Usman Buzdar as the chief executive of the province.

Nadeem Sarwar, a local lawyer, filed a constitutional petition in the LHC challenging the acceptance of Buzdar’s resignation by the then Punjab governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar.

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The petitioner has made the Punjab government, Sardar Usman Buzdar, Chaudhary Muhammad Sarwar, incumbent Governor Omer Sarfraz Cheema, PTI Chairman Imran Khan and newly elected Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz as respondents.

In the petition, Sarwar said that Buzdar had tendered his resignation on March 28 and had addressed former prime minister Imran Khan instead of the Punjab government, which was constitutionally wrong.

He argued that Chaudhry Sarwar had accepted Buzdar’s resignation even though it was not addressed to him, which was a violation of Article 130(8) of the constitution that stated: “The chief minister may, by writing under his hand addressed to the governor, resign from his office.”

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The petitioner contended that the then Punjab governor did not have jurisdiction to accept the resignation and Sardar Usman Buzdar was still the chief minister.

He also submitted that Hamza Shehbaz was elected as the new chief minister after the “illegal acceptance” of the resignation letter.

“It is trite law that when the base of any action or order is illegal then the whole superstructure [built] thereupon cannot be sustained … hence, the conduct of election of chief minister and actions taken by [Hamza] are illegal,” the petition stated.

The petition added that constitutionally Buzdar was still holding the office of chief minister while the assumption of the office by Hamza was “illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional”.

The petition called on the court to declare Sarwar’s acceptance of Buzdar’s resignation to be without lawful authority. It also called on the court to restrain Hamza from taking charge as the chief minister till the petition is decided.

The registrar’s office has raised objections regarding the maintainability of the petition and the fact that a stamp paper was not attached.

However, the petition will be taken up by the court on Thursday.

On other hand, Hamza Shehbaz once again approached the LHC with the plea that the Punjab governor should be directed to administer oath or any other person be appointed for this purpose. He said he was elected as Punjab’s new chief minister while the incumbent Punjab government was not fulfilling his constitutional duties. He claimed that the office of the Punjab CM had been lying vacant since April 1, 2022 and owing to refusal of the incumbent governor, the official duties of the provincial government have come to a halt.

However, the LHC registrar office maintained an objection to Hamza’s petition.

On Tuesday, the LHC registrar office objected to the petition of Hamza, holding that relevant documents were not attached to it.

Both the constitutional petitions filed by Hamza Shehbaz for his oath and a local lawyer’s petition for reinstatement of Sardar Usman Buzdar have been fixed for hearing before LHC Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti for Thursday.

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